May three (UPI) — By learning stellar clusters, astronomers imagine they’ll come to higher perceive the origin of the solar and sun-like stars. The Chandra X-ray Observatory helps scientists do exactly that.
This week, Chandra published new images from its newest stellar cluster survey. The X-ray photos showcase NGC 6231, a stellar cluster discovered 5,200 gentle years from Earth. NGC 6231 is believed to be between 2 and seven million years outdated — comparatively younger.
The solar is four.6 billion years outdated. But like the celebs in NGC 6231, the solar was as soon as a part of a massive household of stars shaped from the identical cloud of gasoline and dirt. The cluster that yielded the solar, nevertheless, dispersed a very long time in the past.
Stellar formation in NGC 6231 has solely not too long ago stopped, which suggests astronomers are taking a look at a cluster in a essential — and little understood — stage of its evolution.
Because NGC 6231 lies in the identical airplane as a crowded band of the Milky Way, learning its stars isn’t simple. Bright stars behind and in entrance of the cluster drown out the sunshine of its many sun-like inhabitants.
However, being younger, NGC 6231 hosts loads of youthful stars with distinctive properties. Young, sizzling stars burn intensely sufficient to superheat their outer atmospheres, inflicting them to emit important quantities of X-rays — X-rays Chandra can detect from a number of thousand light-years away.
By surveying the area’s X-ray emissions, Chandra was in a position to supply scientists a closeup of the cluster’s interior area. Astronomers mixed Chandra’s information with observations by the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, or VISTA telescope, to amass essentially the most full census of NGC 6231 stars but.
By learning the variety of properties of stars discovered inside the massive cluster and by evaluating these properties to stars in different clusters, astronomers can start to piece collectively a mannequin of stellar cluster evolution.
NGC 6231 offers a snapshot of an vital stage in cluster evolution, when its stellar inhabitants has begun to broaden and unfold out, however earlier than its stars have damaged freed from the gravity that holds them collectively.